Six assistants out at Texas Tech

Updated: January 15, 2010, 1:03 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Tommy Tuberville is cleaning house at Texas Tech in the wake of Mike Leach's firing.

The school said Thursday that Ruffin McNeill, the defensive coordinator and interim head coach after Texas Tech suspended and then fired Leach last month, is leaving the program. McNeill came to Texas Tech with Leach in 2000 and was the only other candidate for the head coaching job that was filled by Tuberville.

Also not returning are inside receivers coach Lincoln Riley, running backs coach Clay McGuire, cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell and Eric Russell, who coordinated specials teams. Carlos Mainord, who coached the safeties, is retiring.

McNeill did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Texas Tech announced late Thursday that James Willis, a former assistant to Tuberville at Auburn, will be the Red Raiders' new defensive coordinator. Willis spent last season as associate head coach at Alabama.

Tuberville is keeping offensive line coach Matt Moore and defensive ends coach Charlie Sadler. Dennis Simmons, who coached the wide receivers in Tech's high-flying offense, will work with the athletic department. Troy's Neal Brown is the new offensive coordinator.

Riley, who called offensive plays in the Red Raiders' Valero Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State, released a statement asking the school's supporters to back the new regime and the players, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

"I know many people are upset about many things that have happened, but that is the hand that we have all been dealt," Riley wrote, according to the report. "During this time it is important for all Texas Tech fans to pull together behind the new staff and, most importantly, the players. You have a special group of young men that represent you, and I encourage every Red Raider to never take that for granted."

On Thursday, players were made available to reporters to speak for the first time since the Red Raiders' 41-31 Alamo Bowl win. Most declined to comment on the events surrounding Leach's firing amid allegations that he mistreated receiver Adam James after the player suffered a concussion.

Leach has sued Texas Tech, alleging several claims, including breach of contract, slander and libel. A hearing in the case is set for Jan. 20.

In a lawsuit filed last week, Leach alleges Adam James stormed out of the athletic offices yelling an expletive and slammed the outer door to the coaches' office so hard that it split and came off its hinges, causing approximately $1,100 in damage.

The alleged confrontation with the coaches took place after Leach and assistant Lincoln Riley had informed James that he was being demoted to third string.

The suit also details conversations and messages Leach alleges Craig James had or left with Texas Tech coaches about his son.

ESPN analyst Craig James, who was in Austin on Thursday for a speaking engagement, declined to comment on allegations by Leach that he lobbied for more playing time for his son.

"That's a matter that Texas Tech and the coach are dealing with right now and it would be inappropriate for me to say anything about it," said James, a former NFL player and now an analyst for ESPN.

He said his son is handling the situation well.

"Adam has been able to endure this because of the love of his teammates," Craig James said. "His teammates know who Adam is, they've seen him practice for three years and they love him. That's the comfort we have as a a family ... he loves Texas Tech."

Several hundred Texas Tech fans -- many wearing pirate patches, waving pirate flags or holding up signs -- rallied on campus Thursday to show their support for Leach. Many said they aren't trying to get him reinstated but organizers told the crowd they said the would not relent until they got additional information on actions taken by university and athletic department officials.

"[The rally] is to show there are a significant number of people who have concerns about the way coach Leach was fired," group spokesman Charlie Hodges said, according to the Avalanche-Journal. "We have a number of questions we'd like to have answers to. We don't want anything swept under the rug."

Quarterback Taylor Potts said he had not been interviewed by school officials about the treatment of James, whose family complained that he was twice ordered to stay in dark rooms by Leach after the concussion.

Asked how he was treated after the concussion he got Oct. 3, Potts said "not really going to talk about it.

"My situation was different. I don't know if it was worse or what, but mine was different," he said.

Tuberville didn't forbid players to talk about the past two weeks, said receiver Tramain Swindall, but he suggested players keep their focus on the future.

"It's the past. What's done is done. We all feel it was the best decision," he said. "We're looking forward to the future, in hand with our coach Tuberville and the new staff, and we're very excited by it."

Junior linebacker Brian Duncan said "pretty amazing" was his first impression of Tuberville.

"Very professional guy, suit and tie, come in there with a swagger," he said. "I'm pretty excited about him. Can't wait to see what he brings to the team."

Potts said Tuberville is "smart" and knows the right thing to do. Tuberville was 85-40 at Auburn, including a 13-0 season in 2004 when the Tigers finished No. 2, won the SEC title for the first time in 15 years and Tuberville won the AP Coach of the Year award.

"This might be the missing link," Potts said. "It really seems like he's taking us in the right direction."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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